Seeking Help from Symptoms of Chemical Dependency

Gaining an understanding of chemical dependency and its effects has become important over the past couple of years in America. It is important to know what chemical dependency is, how it starts, and how one can get treatment.

Many families have a loved one who is suffering from chemical dependency. Chemical dependency is a person’s inability to stop using a mind-altering substance or drug because their body has now become dependent on it. This dependence is usually both physical and psychological.

Chemical dependency on a drug or substance is a result of continued use and the body’s ability to assimilate the drug and its tolerance is increased. People can get chemically dependent on narcotics, prescription medication, alcohol, or nicotine.

Because chemical dependency is a complex condition, diagnosing it can be hard. This is why The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) outlines the criteria for a person to be diagnosed.

The more criteria one meets, the more severe their condition as described below:

  • Mild Substance Use Disorder – 2-3 symptoms.
  • Moderate Substance Use Disorder – 4-5 Symptoms.
  • Severe Substance Disorder – 6+ symptoms.

Below are the criteria:

  • Taking the substance in larger amounts or for longer than initially intended.
  • Failing at any attempts to quit or control the amount of use.
  • A significant amount of time spent obtaining, using, or recovering from the substance(s).
  • Cravings or strong desires to use substances.
  • Inability to meet one’s responsibilities at home, work, or school as a result of drug use.
  • Continued use despite social or interpersonal problems.
  • Giving up or reducing social, occupational, or recreational activities because of substance use.
  • Recurrent use in physically hazardous situations (such as drinking and driving).
  • Continued use despite health or psychological problems caused by or exacerbated by substance use.
  • Increased tolerance.
  • Development of withdrawal symptoms resulting in the need to take the drug or substance.

It is important to note that diagnosis of substance use disorder can only be done by a licensed professional and a person should not self-diagnose.

Why it’s important to seek help for chemical dependency?

Its complexity

Chemical dependence can be so severe that one can’t get clean on their own without the help of trained professionals. These people have a deeper understanding of how different substances interact with our bodies and minds and can come up with an effective treatment plan.

Multi-disciplinary team

Chemical dependency affects many aspects of a person’s functioning. Seeking help will ensure that all areas are given attention and assessed. This could be a person’s mental health, physical health, or relational wellness. Treatment centers work with experts in different fields to offer comprehensive support.

It is life-threatening

Dependency on substances can lead to serious medical issues that can contribute to health complications that unfortunately sometimes lead to death.

Renewed hope

When a person seeks help it shows that they have hope that their situation will improve. Taking that first step is important as it opens a door to recovery and a more fulfilling life.

Restored Relationships

Our strength and quality of life come from the relationships we have. When one seeks help, they communicate to their loved ones that they are willing to be better. This gives way to renewed trust and relationship rebuilding.

We can help

If your life has taken an unexpected turn as a result of substance use and you are looking for help, contact our office today. At Newport Beach Christian Counseling, we have trained counselors who can offer you the help you need.

Photos:”Fallen Leaves”, Courtesy of Klim Musalimov,, CC0 License; “Fall Leaves”, Courtesy of Annie Spratt,, CC0 License; 

What is Chemical Dependency, Anyway? A Closer Look

Among lower income and homeless populations, easy access to drugs fuels the addiction crisis. For some, addiction to prescription pain relievers eventually leads to heroin use once the habit is no longer financially sustainable. Every day increasing numbers of addicts die from an overdose, but the chemical dependency epidemic cannot be blamed exclusively on easy access.

Alcohol abuse has often been seen as a separate, distinct problem from chemical dependency. While different chemicals do indeed affect the body uniquely, substance abuse of any kind – alcohol, narcotics or opiates – results from a psychosocial dynamic that is no respecter of substance. Because of this common framework, alcoholism cannot be segregated from other chemical addictions.

Drug and alcohol abuse typically stem from a person’s desire to cope with pain when healthy and adaptive coping skills are insufficient. The difference between alcohol and other chemical dependencies is not so much about what prompts the dependency but about how easily accessible the substance of choice is. Because alcohol is legal to purchase, it is not only readily available but is also more socially acceptable as well. Addiction to street drugs, on the other hand, requires a person to circumvent the law, which makes the addiction more costly and recovery more problematic.

Defining Chemical Dependency

What exactly is chemical dependency? It is difficult to define without acknowledging the many opinions that have informed our discussion of addictions over the years. An organic definition of dependency, for example, looks at the chemical composition of a substance (i.e. the “hook”) that makes addiction highly probable.

A moral definition of addiction considers one’s spiritual disposition (i.e. – lack of faith) as a leading contributor. A biological definition provides yet another vantage point in which a person’s brain is implicated as having an addictive bent (i.e. – an addictive personality). With all these differing perspectives, how does one arrive at the truth? There are a few things that we do know about chemical dependency.

Scientists and researchers inform us that addictions are hereditary. Does heredity point to a genetic predisposition toward chemical dependency, or does it imply that a family’s environment cultivates addictive tendencies through a culture of addiction that passes down to the next generation?

It is known that substances have a withdrawal component which strengthens the organic or biological argument. From a moral standpoint, the Bible forbids drunkenness and encourages Christians to be empowered by the Holy Spirit rather than intoxicated by wine. The theory that substances contain a “chemical hook”, however, proves rather outdated.

Johann Hari exposes this outdated theory in a powerful TED Talk entitled, “Everything You Think You Know about Addiction is Wrong”. I strongly recommend that you watch his presentation, or at least watch the condensed, animated version entitled “Addiction,” created by Kurzgesagt (translated, means “in a nutshell”).

The chemical hook theory arose from a study involving rats that were offered both water and heroin-laced water. The experiment showed that the rats overwhelmingly chose the heroin water over the regular water and showed signs of addiction. This finding was then generalized to human populations, despite later experiments that yielded very different results.

In one such subsequent experiment, the rats were still offered both water and heroin-laced water, but the conditions of their confinement were altered. Instead of a sparse cage, the rats were enclosed in a stimulating environment with other rats. This time, the rats did not show a preference for the heroin water.

It would be unethical to replicate this experiment with human subjects, but a look at the Vietnam War offers some insight into how humans might respond in kind. During the war, heroin use was prolific among soldiers with few other options for recreation or diversion. There was a fear that, when they returned home, their recreational drug use would have become a full-fledged addiction. On the contrary, most soldiers were able to give up heroin upon return to their families and civilian life.

Hari points out the discrepancy in the hook theory given the results of both the rat experiments and the Vietnam War example. When one’s environment is taken into account, addiction is seen in a different light. Difficult and hopeless surroundings (i.e. the sparse cage or the battlefield) provide the context within which drugs become a viable escape. In fulfilling and hopeful environments, however, drug abuse makes little sense.

The implications seem clear, but how can they be integrated into our thinking about and treatment of substance abuse disorders? While addiction cannot be oversimplified, one of the often overlooked components in treatment is an individual’s social context.

Professionals must consider a client’s environment when treating chemical dependency. Advocacy becomes a vital role for the clinician in helping identify support systems for their clients as well as encouraging vocational, volunteer, and recreational interests. When recovering addicts can find fulfillment and purpose in their lives, the draw toward substance use weakens.

One former addict stated that he “wanted to have a life worth being sober for.” When it’s all said and done, having a life full of meaning and purpose provides the best alternative to substance abuse as well as other non-substance related escapes. Whether an individual is battling a substance abuse issue or addiction to pornography or food, therapy aims to explore the pain that is being numbed and examine the context in which the coping mechanism became an addiction.

Christian Counseling Newport Beach desire is to come alongside those who are struggling with chemical dependency and work with them to achieve sobriety and to create a life worth staying sober for. These goals can be achieved one small step at a time with the strength that God gives and the encouragement of your support system.

“Walking Home,” courtesy of Jesus Rodriguez,, CC0 License; “City girl,” courtesy of George Gvasalia,, CC0 License; “Take a sip,” courtesy of Tanja Heffner,, CC0 License; “Field,” courtesy of Karl Fredrickson,, CC0 License